Guns in the Classroom

Guns may become commonplace on university campuses thanks to several bill proposals by a Florida legislator aiming to allow handguns to be carried openly. 

The most controversial bill, SB 140 sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would expand gun rights for licensed holders and allow “open carrying of a handgun.”

A long-standing opponent of gun restrictions, this is Steube’s most recent attempt to get rid of gun-free zones throughout the state. He filed six additional bills on Feb. 1, which would make carrying handguns on college campuses, courthouses, airport terminals, legislative meetings and government meetings, legal.

Possessing or discharging a weapon on school property is still prohibited and punishable by law, however these rules “do not apply at a college or university facility to the possession of a concealed weapon…by a person who has a concealed weapon or firearm license,” as stated from SB 622.

With the increase of gun violence on college campuses, many advocate that armed 

students would be able to protect themselves during campus shootings. Others argue that an increase in handguns would put more co-eds at risk.

Florida is only one of five states that bans open carry for handguns and has a minimum age requirement of 21-years-old to purchase a handgun or hold a concealed carry license.

Steven Landgraf, president of Florida Students for Concealed Carry chapter, a bi-partisan organization, at Florida State University, believes the possible passing of SB 140 or SB 622 would have minimal impact on university students.

“I highly doubt you'll ever see anyone open carrying on college campuses even if it's legal. In the other 45 other states that allow open carry of handguns, the percentage of people that actually do practice it is so low that it's a non-issue to us,” said Landgraf.

He detailed that under the legislation, students would have more options for self-protection and would act as a deterrent for mass shooters.

“We (Florida Students for Concealed Carry) believe that campus carry empowers licensed adults to decide how they want to defend themselves. Given the fact that campus carry has not been connected to any crimes in states where it is legal, it can only provide an effective means of self-defense for law-abiding citizens without putting innocent people in danger,” Landgraf added.

According to a study conducted more than 10 years by Citizens Crime Commission, shooting incidents on or near college campuses increased 153 percent from 2001-02 to 2015-16 school years. For comparison, there were 40 recorded shootings in the first five years of the study and nearly doubled to 101 incidents by the end of 2016.

A large proponent of Steube’s bills would require citizens to provide a certificate of completion of gun education classes, proving they have formal knowledge of safely handling and discharging a firearm.

Dawn Hoffman, owner of DSH Firearms and Training, offers in-store and on-the-range training conducted by employees certified by the National Rifle Association. 

“We are happy to provide education, even without the purchase of a firearm. We have trained many beginners and we strive for it to be a fun, positive experience,” said Hoffman.

She went on to say “quite a number of young people” visit her store to purchase firearms for hunting, personal protection, competition, target shooting, and home defense. One of their biggest sales times is “after tragedies that cause people to become afraid for their safety.”

For college students interested in purchasing handguns for personal safety, Landgraf also supports ongoing firearm education. 

“Enroll in further training classes and try to take at least one or two a year to stay sharp. Visit the range often to practice to ensure that you're proficient and safe with your firearm.”